x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Banker to fight four-year term for embezzlement

Majid Al Refai, the banker sentenced to four years in prison by a Bahraini court for embezzlement, is to fight the verdict from his native Kuwait, says his adviser.

Majid Al Refai, the banker sentenced to four years in prison by a Bahraini court for embezzlement, is to fight the verdict from his native Kuwait, says his adviser.

The former chief executive of Bank Alkhair, an Islamic wholesale bank based in Bahrain, Al Refai was this week found guilty by a Bahraini court of embezzlement, misappropriating bank funds and destroying bank records.

"He continues to assert his innocence of these charges, and is exploring all legal routes for challenging the verdict from Kuwait," said one of his advisers, who declined to be identified.

Neither Al Refai nor any lawyers working on his behalf took any part in the Bahrain proceedings.

The court case was the latest phase in a bitter dispute between Al Refai and Yousef Al Shelash, the Saudi chairman of Bank Alkhair - previously known as Unicorn Investment Bank - who owns part of Alkhair and also has a big stake in Dar Al Arkan, Saudi Arabia's second-biggest listed property developer.

"We are glad this case has finally been concluded and we can continue to focus our efforts on growing our business," Mr Al Shelash said of the court verdict.

Al Refai left Alkhair in 2010 following policy differences with Mr Al Shelash. Reports by two firms of auditors - PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young - and the legal firm Latham & Watkins revealed "fraudulent and illegal conduct" by Al Refai.

An independent report by Deloitte, another accounting firm, alleged 58 criminal offences committed by Al Refai, including: "personally appropriating and squandering bank funds; shredding and destroying over 8,000 bank documents; and preventing the bank's partners, associates and other authorised entities from accessing bank documents", Alkhair said yesterday.

Al Refai claimed about US$50 million (Dh183.6m) as compensation for the termination of his contract. That claim was dismissed by the Bahrain chamber for dispute resolution earlier this year.

A warrant for Al Refai's arrest was issued after he had left Bahrain for Kuwait.

He claims this prevented him from being able to appear in court in Bahrain and from mounting a defence to the charges.

He is believed to be exploring the possibility that a citizen of a GCC country has the right to fight a court action brought by one GCC country in the jurisdiction of any other GCC state.

Bank Alkhair was founded in 2004 as Unicorn and has a presence in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Turkey and Pakistan.

fkane@thenational.ae

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